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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


GROBLER, Jackie. The Retief Massacre of 6 February 1838 revisited. Historia [online]. 2011, vol.56, n.2, pp.113-132. ISSN 2309-8392.

ABSTRACT This article has a threefold purpose. Firstly, it reconstructs the events that took place on 6 February 1838 when the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his companions were massacred at Mgungundlovu, the stronghold of the Zulu king, Dingane. Secondly it analyses the reasons that could have convinced Dingane that it would be wise to order his warriors to kill Retief and his men; and thirdly, it sets out to establish the historical significance of the massacre. Afrikaans historians in particular have traditionally portrayed Retief and his men as the victims of unpardonable treachery on the part of an evil barbarian. This article shows that the massacre was indeed a vile act; the brutality and the sly, underhanded way in which it was planned and executed is unjustifiable. On the other hand, the article points out that Dingane was certainly justified to look upon the Voortrekkers as a grave threat to the sovereignty of his kingdom. He and his councillors had reason to regard the unsuspecting Retief and his companions as invaders. The massacre can therefore be regarded as the first salvo in what became a two-year battle for supremacy between Zulu and Voortrekker in southern KwaZulu-Natal.

Keywords : Piet Retief; Great Trek; Voortrekkers; Dingane ka Senzangakona; Mgungundlovu; Ndlela; Dambuza; Francis Owen; Alan Gardiner; William Wood; Sekonyela; Mzilikazi; Thomas Halstead; Kwa-Matiwane; Retief-Dingane Treaty.

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